By Thobekile Khumalo
Beitbridge Hospital workers have expressed concern over the safety of expecting mothers at the institution as the hospital’s maternal ward has been running for some time without midwives.
Maternal mortality in Zimbabwe currently stands at 614 per 100 000 live deaths, one of the highest maternal mortality rates worldwide.
An employee at the health institution, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the situation was dire for pregnant women as the maternity ward was being run by general nurses without the adequate knowledge of handling labour complications.
“Our maternity ward in the hospital has been running for quite some time without midwives because on a weekly basis over 5 not only mid wives but nurses generally leave the country to go overseas to seek greener pastures.
“This has crippled our maternity ward but obviously it cannot close because it’s a district hospital covering the whole of Beitbridge town and rural area. However, this poses serious danger to expecting mothers because it’s increasing the maternal mortality rate in the country,” she said.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary general, Dr Norman Matara said there is a huge danger being posed by having general nurses practice as midwives.
“We have to understand why the government saw the need of having a programme to further train general nurses to become midwives instead of having general nurses manning the maternity ward. It was actually to capacitate them with a special skill to monitor and manage complications of labor to try and reduce complications and mortality during labor.
“So now having the shortage of midwives and having general nurses practicing as midwives without the necessary skill means there are high chances of increase in the complications during labor and maternal mortality for women delivering in public institutions. We need skilled people to manage those places and not unskilled people because we are going to have an increase in the maternal mortality rate which is already high,” he said.
He said that there are a lot of push factors chasing away midwives from our public institutions.
“The reason why there is a shortage of midwives is because there are pull factors in European countries that offer better remunerations than our country that has poor working conditions. Also, lack of resources, burn out from long working hours and low remuneration contribute.
“Their rights are also not being respected, they are a special sector that should be treated well. The government does not respond well to their pleas at some point they were fired and that type of command policy frustrates health workers. The government should make sure that they are paid well and the hospitals they work in are well equipped with the basic medicines and drugs so that it reduces the workload on them,” said Dr Matara.
Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Health and Child Care were fruitless.